Cambodian security forces, striking workers clash, 10 arrested

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-1-2 15:58:19

A brief clash between security forces and striking workers took place at a Cambodian garment factory on the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh on Thursday, leaving several protesters injured and 10 others arrested.

"Hundreds of protesting workers had tried to destroy the factory's property, so security forces had to take action against them," Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, told Xinhua after the 20-minute clash at Yak Jing Garment Factory. "We could not allow them to cause anarchy and chaos."

He said 10 people, including Von Pov, president of the Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy, and a few Buddhist monks, were arrested for an inquiry after the incident.

Kheng Tito said those monks were fake because the police found underpants and condoms in their bags.

"They are not workers, but they joined to incite striking garment workers to destroy the factory's property," he said. "They will be charged with triggering violence."

He said he did not know the number of people injured.

According to a Xinhua photojournalist at the scene, several protesters including Buddhist monks were injured on heads and faces due to security forces' batons.

It was the second clash between security forces and protesters within a week. Last Friday, three anti-riot police officers and four striking workers were injured in a short clash at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone.

Cambodia has closed all garment and shoe factories since Wednesday last week after six pro-opposition trade unions have led thousands of workers to go on strikes to demand the government to double the monthly minimum wage in the garment sector to 160 US dollars from the current 80 US dollars.

The government decided on Tuesday to raise the minimum wage in the garment sector to 100 US dollars from the current 80 US dollars a month; however, the six pro-opposition trade unions rejected the offer and vowed to go on strikes.

The Southeast Asian nation has about 900 garment and shoe factories employing about 600,000 workers, according to Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour. The industry, the kingdom's largest foreign exchange earner, generated 5 billion US dollars in revenues a year.

"On Thursday morning, about 500 factories have reopened and some 80 percent of the workers have returned to work," he told Xinhua.

About 400 factories were still closed on security and safety concerns, he said, adding that striking workers were rallying in front of more than 30 factories to demand the government to double their minimum wages.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the situation in the garment industry remained bad on Thursday since striking workers unlawfully entered factories to force workers to join their protests.

"The situation remains bad because after the workers started working on Thursday morning, gangsters in the striking unions had entered the factories to chase them out, so now most of the factories released all the workers, and the factories are closed again," he told Xinhua.

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